The title of the cover story of African Abroad-USA - March 30-April 14 issue was “African Men Regretting Getting Married to African Women in the US”.
First of all, I found the title gender biased. Moreover, the tone of the entire article was how badly African women treat their men. And what was most annoying was that the writer never gave the reason why his childhood friend – the subject of the article – concluded that “African Women Are Now Even Worse than Akata”. By the way, the word “AKATA” (frequently used by Nigerians to berate African-Americans) means a wild animal in the Yoruba language. For the record, it is offensive and shows ignorance on the part of the user. The writer further stated that part of the reasons why his friend did not date African-Americans in college was because he was afraid that if he wound up marrying one, she might take him to court for child support. Ok, what’s up with that thinking? We all know that women in general wouldn’t have any reason to take any man to court if he takes care of his responsibilities and financial obligations. So this is not a cultural difference issue but a moral one. The truth of the matter is that a lot of African men have married the so called “No Good Akata” women for green cards – had children they didn’t want and abandoned the family without any remorse. That’s a different book entirely. Now back to Mr. Wonderful whom I gathered from the story got his wish by marrying a Nigerian woman and by now had eaten all the Fufu, Egusi and Okra he ever wanted and had communicated effectively (in his native tongue) with his lovely wife. So what seems to be the problem? Why does he now feel that African women are worse than African-American women? The writer said“His Expectations Appeared to Have Been Dashed”- but why? Did he cheat on his wife and she retaliated? Did a DNA test detected that he’s not the father of the children? Or maybe he filed legal residency for her and she left him for the man she had originally planned to marry? I guess we would never know the real story since his friend, the author of “African Men Regretting Getting Married to African Women in the US” refused to spill the beans. As for Mr. Wonderful, I suppose he might have better luck with white women next time around. But I advise that he and his friends stay away from Caribbean women because they take matters into their own hands and delinquent baby daddies may not even make it to court let alone worry about paying child support.
The real disturbing issue is that there has been increasing turbulence in marriages among African immigrants in America lately. I’m not sure of the number of marriages that have failed but recent horror stories of uncivilized behavior and brutal murder of African women by their husbands is something relatively new in the African community. I have personally counseled friends who were going through tough times in their marriages and I also used to co-host a weekly gender-equal conference titled “For My Sisters’ Sake” created by a friend. I was also married to an African-American and I was recently in a relationship with an African man. So while not claiming to be a sociologist or marriage counselor - I believe I have some authority on the subject.
As a liberated “American-African Woman”, I’m accustomed to power sharing and gender equality which has not caused any friction in any of my past relationships which have been mainly with American men. Of course there has been a host of other issues such as culture and class differences, money and decision making and personality clashes etc. But nothing in my consciousness prepared me for the rude awakening I experienced in my recent relationship with an African man. It was supposed to be a casual encounter but it turned into a full blown relationship. It was also my first and only relationship with an African man in over 25 years so I was sort of dazed and excited that I actually met an African man that I could somewhat relate to. So I fantasized about eating plenty of Fufu and Okra -playing African melodies that we both grew up listening to - and exchanging terms of endearments in our native tongue – how awesome! But I soon found that all my reminiscing wasn’t so special to him because he had dated so many African women – so to him I was behaving like a foreigner – maybe more precisely like an American woman. I was shocked to hear this because in spite of my western education and liberation, I believe that I’m an African woman to the core until he denounced it. He expected me to cook all the time and have his meals ready when he walked in the door. He questioned everything I did and he wanted everything his way or the highway. He didn’t like the fact that I’m assertive and have tons of opinions on every subject. He was simply used to being the only voice and the “King in Charge”. So the man I thought was my “African Prince” turned out to be an egotistical male chauvinist. I was really taken aback. I had never experienced anything like that in my adult years. I was really mad about him and thought we could work it out. I went way out of my way and my comfort zone to be that African woman that he wanted. But the more I tried the worse he behaved – trying to break me (I believe) into submission. It was crazy. Naturally, my African-American friends concluded that I had lost my mind because I had shared some of the stories with them. The irony of the whole thing was that this man thought he was just being himself. He was in his element and I was the feminist African woman who had lost touch with African traditions and most importantly, the traditional role of African women - which he believed is to be submissive to her husband. He actually used the word submissive and I thought I was back in the cave days. It took a while for me to get it because I was so determined to be with an African man. But then I realized that I couldn't afford to lose myself in someone else. I have to be an authentic example for my boys and especially for my nieces. It was quite a pity because we love each other a great deal and the relationship could have survived if he were willing to compromise.
I think it’s high time African men got off of their power control high horses and realize that times have changed. Progressive independent African women like me appreciate partnership not dictatorship.
Zainab got married to her college sweet heart when she was 19, he was 21. They’re both college graduates and worked tirelessly to achieve their American dream. They bought their first home in the suburbs of Maryland and everything seemed great for ten to fifteen years ……….. She said her husband got upset whenever she initiated sex. He preferred to be the initiator and it was never love making but more like - come here – spread your legs – kind of experience. To add insult to injury, she found out that her husband, who is a Muslim, had taken a second wife and …… To Be Continued.
Bookie Shonuga is an independent journalist listed with the US Foreign Press Center.